Friday, November 14, 2008

Finishing first at last, for a split second

I am the nicest, nicest, nicest nice guy in the world, ever.

I know this because I’ve managed to finish second in practically every competition or contest I’ve ever entered. Yea, mine is a tear-stained chronicle of the might have been.

Check this out.

The U-10 Community Games 100m race in 1985, county final - beaten by a hair’s breadth on the line. I was that close to making it as far as Mosney holiday camp for the All-Irelands but my fleet feet weren't fleet enough.

The Boy Scouts Camp Fire competition 1986 – second again. What a heartbreaker. Every child dreams of being a champion fire lighter. Or is that firefighter? Who cares. I came second.

Primary Schools’ Water Pollution Awareness Project Competition, also 1986 – my annus horribilis if you will – and once more, I was better than everyone bar the winner, despite a rather fetching model of Lough Sheelin complete with imitation pigshit floating in the water. Another deep gouge on my psyche.

Community Games 1500m final 1987 – and guess what? Second best once again. Behind the guy who beat me in the 100m two years before. I hated that little leg-pumping speedy Gonzales bastard. Even when I see him now in the pub I make a point of getting to the bar first, or elbow ahead of him in the queue for the cinema, but nothing eases the pain.

Cavan Interpub Pool Competition 1999. A slow starter here, I eventually gathered pace and stole into the final as a rank outsider. I was playing a guy who always beats everyone, so the whole pub was rooting for me. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!!!! But alas, it wasn’t me. I finished, and you may spot an emerging pattern here, in second place.

I think now, looking back, that I was born with a silver medal in my mouth. I’d come second in a game of solitaire so I would.

Anyway, against this backdrop of serial fall-shortingness came my latest shot at redemption. A test of nerve, character, recollection under pressure and general knowledge. No, not the leaving cert exams. The round table quiz is what I'm talking about, the arena where men are made, as we all know.

My eyes narrowed determinedly at the thoughts of it. The previous one I’d entered, well, big sigh, we finished (bigger sigh) second after a tie-breaker. To separate us, whichever team named the 12 apostles the quickest won the prize. We came a cropper because although we rattled off a dozen disciple-sounding gents in jig time, apparently Zebedee wasn’t among the official fishers of men. He was, in fact, on the Magic Roundabout instead. Who’d have thunk it?

Right, I said to myself, throwing back the shoulders. Now it’s all going to change. I'm putting me first, literally.

It was a sneaky little five-rounder format, 30 questions in all. The most compressed and unforgiving of them all; incorrect answers are amplified because you’ve little or no wriggle room to claw your way back if you drop the ball a few times.

First round, two questions wrong, horrendous start. Ah bollocks, we’re fucked now I thought. Fancy not knowing that the ‘no offside’ rule in hockey actually came into force in 1998. Or something. The mortification!

Second round. Olympic Rower Steve Redgrave flummoxed us. It turns out his first Games were in 1984, not 1992, and how we cursed ourselves for forgetting that he's obviously been lifting articulated lorries out of mucky ditches since he was ten. No matter, 4/5 was fair shooting and while not quite back in the race, we weren’t further out of it either.

It wasn't going to be easy though. The song that spent most of 1984 in the charts despite being banned by the BBC? Jasus. Like, back in the day, nothing moved in this town without the BBC behind it. What could it be? We wondered aloud if our goose was cooked. Then, the boy Dave struck from across the table. Shy and lacking confidence, but coming to life after a burger and chips and a few pints, he timorously and casually ventured something about a video featuring bondage and naked ladies.

“How did he get hold of my First Holy Communion tape down in Limerick, the hoor?” was the first thing that sprung to mind.

But then, the penny dropped. Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Relax.

And Relax we did. None of the other clowns were going to get that.

The results came out. Five out of five. High fives more like. Now, it was really on. Two rounds to go, one behind, no room for manoeuvre, pressure mounting. We needn't have worried. We were on a roll and aced the next round as well, so we were tied for the lead entering the last lap. The picture round, the one that sorts out the mobile phone cheats from the true corinthians like us. Stuck on a few, especially a youthful soccer player in an unfamiliar jersey. Dave strikes again.

“Wait! It’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy,” says he.

“It fucking is too,” says I, wide eyed.

“It’s wha?,” says the girls.

Nine down, all correct so far, at least by our reckoning. Who is this famous director, question six, has us scratching our heads. An old photo. He looks like a young Neil Jordan, says I. Nobody could offer anything better. But we weren’t sure. We wavered one way then the other.

Let’s name off a few famous directors, I suggested hopefully.

“Ok, Jordan, Scorcese, Polanski, Spielberg, Denis O’Brien…”

There was a flicker of recognition at Spielberg. I'd know his nose, someone reckoned. I nodded knowledgeably, although in truth, I am unschooled in the ways of Spielberg’s hooter. Time passed. We grew surer it was Stephen himself, as we gave him the Irish spelling on the answer sheet. Faith and begorrah, for luck like.

The results? Oh yes. A perfect ten.

The winners? Us? Nope, not quite. We were level on points with one other team. We faced a tie breaker. Familiar Terence territory. Our nominated person would have to listen to a piece of music and the first to shout out the name of the song or the artist, would win outright.

The prize was a big box of smoked salmon and a bottle of wine each. Yes dear readers. It was that serious, we're talking vacuum packed fish and a bottle of plonk here. We shuffled about nervously in the wings as our anointed one lined up in the middle of the floor against her adversary from the other team.

“I’d stamp on her toe when the music comes on to shock her out of answering, that’s what I’d do,” I thought to myself. “Or punch her really hard in the diddy.”

Oh, they’re playing the song.

And guess what happened?

We only went and won it.

And the song that clinched it?

Don’t stop Believing, by Journey. I've been laughing at that ever since.

23 moos and woofs:

hope said...

And now you've got yourself a theme song. :)

Anonymous said...

You may not be the nicest, nicest, nicest nice guy in the world ever anymore - too bad... - but for genuine sparkling Irish wit you are and will remain the best!
Parisian reader

Kath Lockett said...

Woohoo - second no more for you, my son! Even while I was reading this, I was almost yelling out, "It's RELAX goddamnit, RELAX!"

Radge said...

Sham! SHAM I SAY! You won the pool on a work night out in Con's Bar seven years ago. The draw forbade us from playing each other, but I would have wiped the floor with your sorry ass.

And that's not to mention your glorious run to the European Championships title in 1988 as part of the victorious Dutch side.

People, Terence is not as he seems.

Moon said...

Winners always rise to the top ... but Dogshit does indeed float !

Susan said...

Well done you, Cavan man.

I've something in my eye...


Are you er...are you doing to finish that salmon, there? Are you? You sure?
Don't need a bit of help, now?
You sure?

Baino said...

Don't knock smoked salmon and plonk for a prize you can't eat a silver cup now! Congratulations, as a chronic, underachiever,I share your pain! Or is that your Joy? Well done anyway.

Terence McDanger said...

Yes hope, it replaces "I'm a loser."

Merci beaucoup, Parisian reader. And that's all the French I know.

Kath - it was a close run thing. If anyone of us had thought of 'Like a Virgin@ we'd likely have written that down instead.

Radge - I'd genuinely forgotten that. I feel exposed for a total charlatan now. But all the rest are true.

Moon - that's very sweet of you. (I think).

Susan - it's in the boot of the car. It's fucking massive, I've no fridge big enough so hopefully it won't go off!

Baino - I'm on a roll now, I have the forms for Mastermind ready. Onwards and upwards.

the broken down barman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thriftcriminal said...

Wooot-go you. Oh, and surely you mean fire-starter [adopts Beavis voice] hehehe, fire, fire, FIRE!

Kath Lockett said...

Actually Terence, you're not the nicest guy ever, just one of the laziest. Get blogging again I say!

hope said...

Dear Santa,

I've been fairly good, considering the economy and all. In light of my attempts to be kind, is it okay if I ask you to bring Moo-Dog some new words for his blog? I don't think he should have to be second all his life. Thanks Santa.

K8 said...

Zebedee was an apostle. They cut him out for being a big piss-taking stoner, and he never had anything published in the Bible because he used the paper for rolling. He was a nice chap, I hear.

Susan said...

Perhaps you should have shared the salmon.


I've awarded you with an oh-so-girly irresistible meme-attached award on my post today.

It's only because I miss you so.

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